Early voting for the May 27 primary runoffs is underway and four Denton County attorneys are set to square-off in two election runoff-rings.
The fight for Denton County District Attorney is between Paul Johnson– who is seeking his third four-year term in the office– and his challenger, attorney Karen Alexander of Lantana.
Johnson snagged 43-percent of the vote, while Alexander garnered 39-percent. Also-ran Denton lawyer Hank Paine had 18-percent of the vote.
The fight for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4 has gone from a four-way battle down to a toe-to-toe square-off between incumbent J Hand and Northlake Attorney Harris Hughey on May 27.
Hand had 39-percent of the vote to Hughey’s 27-percent. The other two candidates, former Flower Mound Town Council member Al Filidoro and Trophy Club business owner Scott Smith, received 18- and 17-percent of the vote, respectively.
District Attorney Race
The District Attorney’s Office employs more than 120 people, handles thousands of criminal and civil cases and oversees a $12 million budget.
Paul Johnson, 55, lives in Highland Village and is currently serving his second term as the Denton County Criminal District Attorney.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas at Arlington and a law degree from the University of Houston School of Law.
Johnson has been practicing law for 29-years, including 15-years as an Assistant DA and the past seven years as DA. As District Attorney, Johnson spearheaded the development of a Veteran’s Court Program, developed a “paperless” E-Filing system and partnered his office with the Denton ISD to develop a criminal justice intern program for high school students. During his tenure, his office has held thousands of criminal defendants responsible for their crimes and aggressively prosecuted violent offenders.
Johnson stated that it is critical to elect a District Attorney with the necessary experience to tackle the looming challenges and lead an office this size. One of the main issues facing the DA’s Office is the increase in technology-based crimes. To combat this problem, his office trained an investigator as a Certified Computer Forensic Examiner to assist law enforcement with the recovery of data from computers, cellular phones– and other digital media sources– for use in the criminal prosecution of sex offenders, drug dealers and white-collar criminals.
Johnson points to another issue that involves the significant amount of time it takes to receive scientific lab results, especially in drug cases. The DA’s office, in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office, has taken steps to create an accredited crime lab at the University of North Texas.
Johnson adds that a third issue concerns the delay in justice that occurs for crime victims when an offender absconds and the case cannot proceed until the defendant is located. Johnson initiated the “Denton County Most Wanted Billboard Campaign” to address this issue and obtain information on the whereabouts of violent offenders.
Karen Alexander, 37, lives in Lantana and is an attorney.
She graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1998 and a law degree (J.D.) in 2001.
Alexander has stated that the title of District Attorney means more than just prosecuting criminals and winning convictions; it’s to do justice in every case, every time. She points to building a successful law practice coupled with her time working as a prosecutor in Denton County providing her with unique qualifications to make sure justice happens.
Alexander said issues of concern in the current DA’s office include a lack of leadership and professionalism, inefficiency, a string of broken promises and a loss of confidence among the community. She cites an alleged discrimination problem in the DA’s office involving an assistant district attorney found to have made inappropriate sexual comments to a colleague, yet the employee continued to receive praise in performance appraisals and multiple salary increases.
Alexander stated that people are dissatisfied and disgruntled– from law enforcement, to victim assistance groups, to the citizens that the DA serves. To fix the problems, Alexander adds that she will take swift and decisive action. She said she will take personal responsibility and hold others accountable for their actions, stating that’s what a leader does. She said that she plans to raise the standards to the competence and performance expected of a professional prosecutor.
She added that the key to quality and efficiency is professionalism, and she has developed programs to restore the public’s trust in the District Attorney’s Office.
Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4
J Hand, 77, lives in Flower Mound and has served as the Justice of the Peace for Denton County Precinct 4 since 2007.
Hand earned his B.S. degree at the University of Tulsa with additional training by FDA, DEA, CIA, Texas Police Officer, and Texas State University at San Marcos
Hand stated that few Texas JP’s are lawyers and none of the six JP’s in Denton County is a lawyer. However, most Texas cases are resolved at this level. He said that candidates who promise new sweeping changes, innovations and programs may actually be telling voters they plan to operate outside the legal and constitutional limits of the office.
Hand advises that the Justice Judge should be someone who courteously and patiently listens to the parties, gives them the dignity and respect they deserve then applies the rules and law, and makes a clear call– balls or strikes.
Hand points out that JP4 has the largest population of the Denton County precincts. It is second largest in area with the most miles of interstate highway. JP4 is second in legal revenue of the Denton County precincts with the fewest employees. It also has had the handicap of operating with the acknowledged worst physical facility in the county. The Justice of the Peace and the Constable’s offices cover the same area; however, it operates alone, removed from other county functions. Hand added that in the next term his office hopefully will move into a consolidated facility in west Flower Mound.
He also said that he has a good working relationship with Pct. 4 Constable Tim Burch. Burch has endorsed Hand.
Harris Hughey, 54, lives in Northlake and is an attorney and prosecutor.
Hughey earned a B.B.A. degree at Texas Wesleyan University and his J.D. from the University of Tulsa law school.
He stated that he has over 20-years of legal experience as an attorney and prosecutor. He said that he practices in this particular court on a regular basis and understands the procedural aspects of a JP court, as well as the cases that come before this bench.
Hughey adds that taxpayers deserve the most experienced judicial candidate who understands principles of law and is able to apply them to the facts of a case, and that particular skill set comes from experience.
With JP jurisdictional limits rising, currently at $10,000, he said it is imperative to have someone on the bench who understands fundamental principles of law and can apply them to any set of facts.
He said that citizens of Precinct 4 can rest assured if he is elected JP, they will have a judge who understands the law and knows how to apply it. He promised to render competent, honest and ethical justice, using sound principles of law.
In addition, Hughey said he will reduce the number of appeals out of this court; he will keep dockets moving forward so cases don’t sit on the docket for an extended period of time; and he will manage the staff and courtroom in an efficient manner.
Website: www.Hugheyfor JP.com
Early voting runs May 19 through 23 prior to the May 27 election.
Click here for early voting locations.
Click here for Election Day polling locations and sample ballots.